From community management to customer management

I’d like to go back on this  interesting article published in the January-February issue of the Harvard Business Review about the need to reinvent marketing.

The postulate is now well known. Companies have more tools to interact with customers than they ever had and customers want more than ever to tell businesses what they think about their products. To stay competitive is such a context, the focus has to be set on quickly bringing customers to a transaction but to build a long term relationship that may generate less value at the beginnig but more in the future. (On this point, I highly recommend you to read my takes on social CRM here and this HBR paper on consumer capitalism).

One of the interesting things that emerges from the article is the “Customer manager” with a clear definition : someone with a deep knowledge of the products, knows how to analyze both structured and unstructured informations (blogs, forums…), who is more interested in brand perception than in audience numbers. They need good skills in social science (psychology, sociology), in economics and may have some knowledge in marketing. the idea is to stop pushing the product to the client but consider this latter as a stakeholder in the enterprise develpment and co-build the offer with him.

Obviously, it questions the role of this customer manager compared to a trendy one : the community manager. Is it the same thing ? Are they complementary ?

I already exposed my fear to see the role of community manager lead astray and become nothing more than the good old push marketing with a facelift. In my opinion, a good community manager (or a community manager which employer really gets the purpose of the approach) is a customer manager. In the other case, the difference between both is at the same time slight and essential : the one is here to generate conversation and attract attention, the other is here to create value. Creating value means : turning conversations into action and make the organization determine itselft according to its customer relationship, what implies to question many processes and certainties. This also implies some seniority for the customer manager who has to deal with an heavy responsability.

Anyway, it’s already an ongoing change. As said in the articile, B2B businessses are more advanced but B2C are jumping on the bandwagon. That’s true that many organizations have already started to learn how to co-operate with their customers and suppliers to improve the efficiency of their supply chain while, because of their weak individual economical wieght regarding to the market sizez, individual customers have often been neglecting and asked to buy and shut up.

Times change.

NB : in this post I considered the community manager in a customer relationship approach. Internal community managers have their own specificities.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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